Keeping tortillas fresh for longer is the best thing since sliced bread

Food waste is a growing problem that plagues our modern world. It’s a multifaceted issue that extends from individual households to global supply chains, and has environmental, social, and financial implications.

Today, 14% of the food produced somewhere in the world is lost between harvest and retail.¹ And another 17% of it is wasted, either at home, in restaurants or on the shelves of supermarkets. It amounts to a staggering 1.3 billion tons of food, worth around US$1 trillion.² It is food that, rather than being eaten and enjoyed, ends up in landfills or compost bins.

Food waste represents an environmental disaster. The resources invested in growing, processing, packaging, and transporting food are all wasted when that food ends up in the bin. Every year, consumers in the developed world waste almost as much food as is produced in sub-Saharan Africa.³

From a commercial point of view, the losses are colossal. Think about the expenses associated with cultivating crops, manufacturing food products, and distributing them to markets. When these efforts culminate in food that never reaches consumers, it translates to an enormous waste of money.

The issue of food waste is particularly pertinent to the bakery sector; the degradation process of baked goods starts the moment products come out of the oven. Making baked goods fresh for longer is crucial if companies are to meet their sustainability commitments and protect the bottom line.

The tortilla and flatbread segment is a good case in point. The market is buoyant right now, with breads-to-fill growing in popularity during the pandemic as people looked for affordable and versatile foods. The tortilla market is set to grow by more than $9 billion between 2021 and 2026. In the US, sales jumped 4% in the first quarter of 2023 as the popularity of the tortilla reached record heights.⁴

Creating the perfect tortilla means making it soft and flexible so that it can rolled or folded without cracking along the entire shelf life. Quality products are symmetrical and uniform in size, and opaque with toasted spots. Traditionally, packaged tortillas have a shelf life of around six months.

The recipe for flour tortillas is simple, consisting of wheat flour, shortening, salt and water. However, in industrial processing there is a need for innovative solutions to ensure tortillas don’t degrade or deteriorate – and commercial manufacturers do not fail in their efforts to reduce environmental impacts through food loss.

Several factors can contribute to deterioration, affecting quality, taste, texture and freshness. Tortillas can become harsh, dry, crumbly and firm as a result of staling moisture loss. With a high surface area, tortillas and flatbreads are particularly prone to moisture evaporation.

Using food enzyme solutions can help to keep tortillas and flatbreads fresh for significantly longer periods by improving dough extensibility, flexibility and rollability, while maintaining softness and moistness for longer. Baking enzymes can also ensure a reliable and robust baking process, which means less product is discarded due to being out of specification, such as being misshapen.

Enhancing and maintaining a robust shelf life for your products is good for the environment, of course. But it is also critical for maintaining quality, improving customer satisfaction and food safety, and building a positive brand image. Not only are companies able to reduce product waste throughout their value chain but they also minimize product returns due to quality issues and get control of costs. This can lead to increased profit margins, open up possibilities for new geographic markets and distribution models, while also contributing to customer loyalty in what is a hugely competitive sector.

Discover IFF’s enzyme solutions for Tortilla

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[4] Nielsen US Report Sub-Categories Q1 2023

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